For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love affair with flowers.
I suppose I was a bit of an odd child…..I spent most of my time outside. I loved flowers, and everything that went along with the garden. Flowers were collected, flattened, worn or eaten, all the worms had pet names, the pill bugs had secret villages under rocks, and the snails were ancient remnants of oceans that I, alone, knew of. I spent my early years almost entirely outside, daydreaming the garden days of my Montana youth away.
Some of my earliest memories were spent in the rose garden of an elderly Rabbi and his wife, who lived down the street. I spent a lot of time with Mrs. Horowitz, and she always greeted the “Scout” looking child with rose clippers and a vase. Mrs. Horowitz spent hours teaching me about her heirloom roses, which came from clippings from her Mother. I can still see her gardens in my mind…..arbors and draping canopies full of antique roses, poppies, daffodils and peonies. The Horowitz garden was a magical place for a child. I never got over the sheer beauty of her heirloom flowers.
Those early garden days are long gone, and I have my own children now. Over the years, I have made it my life’s goal to create the gardens of my memory….if not just for me, but for all the children who deserve to have garden wonderlands to explore and enjoy. The idea of establishing roots and grow something for future generations seems a bit foreign at times. Our society has become so fast and furious….quick color has replaced the heritage rose or bulb that blooms just once a year. I found it particularly challenging to locate the heirloom flowers of the Horowitz garden, especially after moving to Texas. Peonies just refuse to grow in the heat, and I truly felt a hole in my soul for the gardens of my youth…….that was, until I saw my first Oxblood Lily.
The beauty of an Oxblood Lily is intoxicating. Imagine a blood red tripod of lusiciousness. The lily appears out of the ground like a dream. The red lily is bold and striking, and yet elegant and embracing.
Oxblood Liles came to Texas by way of German Settlers in the 1800’s. A true heirloom. Many early settlers came to the New World carrying few possessions, except the few treasures they could not live without. I saw a list of items brought to an old family ranch, which included a corset, a Bible and a lily. Oxblood Lilies were truly prized bulbs, and can still be found on old homesteads growing strong, surviving years of drought and neglect.
Oxbloods are known as a type of rain lily. The Oxblood Lily will bloom just once after the first heavy rain in the fall. Oxbloods have signified the starting of school for many of these small Texas communities, blooming within the first week of school. A common name for these lovelies is the School House Lily. Sometimes when moved, the Oxblood Lily might sulk, and choose to bloom the following year. Let’s face it…..our flowers are really the ones in control.
As with all bulbs, Oxbloods enjoy their growing season to the fullest. The rich, green grass-like foliage will be food for the following year’s bulb. Do not mow down…..many an Oxblood has lost blooming energy due to an unsuspecting mower. Oxbloods will grow through May, and then the bulb will begin to rest. The foliage will brown and the plant will look dead…..but it is not. The bulb is just sleeping. Oxbloods like to be dry during their resting state.
Then, just like magic….after a long rainfall after the summer heat, the Oxblood blooms.
Through the years, I have given many lectures about heirloom bulbs, and I am frequently asked the sane question……..
“You mean, you wait ALL YEAR for just one bloom?!” (It kind of makes an heirloom bulb lover sound a bit crazy)
I think about my life as a gardener and lover of flowers, especially heirloom bulbs, and I just smile.
“Why yes. Yes I do.”